On top of the world a few months ago, Brazilian race car driver and "Dancing with the Stars" champ Helio Castroneves faces possible prison time if convicted at a tax evasion trial that began Monday with jury selection.
Castroneves, a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, smiled broadly as he entered Miami's downtown federal courthouse. Prosecutors say Castroneves, his business-manager sister Katiucia and Michigan attorney Alan R. Miller conspired to hide about $5.5 million in income from the Internal Revenue Service using offshore accounts.
Castroneves claims he relied on experts to advise him on handling finances. He also says his father controlled a Panamanian entity called Seven Promotions at the heart of the prosecution's case.
Castroneves claims the money Seven Promotions received wasn't his tax liability because the income was for his father, who had financed and promoted his son's career for over 10 years.
Castroneves, his sister and Miller also deny acting "willfully" to evade taxes and that they took improper deductions.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Castroneves, 33, could get more than six years in prison if convicted of conspiracy and tax evasion from 1999 to 2004. That would short-circuit a brilliant racing career that began in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where a youthful Castroneves broke into the sport by driving go-carts.